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5G Smart Tourism trial takes Roman Baths to the future

18 December 2018

The first major trial of the 5G Smart Tourism project has taken place at the historic Roman Baths, where invited guests were able to immerse themselves in history using a virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR) application enabled by 5th Generation Mobile network technology.

The trial involved 20 VIPs using this uniquely developed, location-dependent VR/AR smartphone application jointly created by Aardman Animations and BBC R&D at three places within the Roman Baths in the heart of the World Heritage Site, the City of Bath.

The experience included 360 prerendered videos which tell stories about three periods of this historical venue: the mythical discovery of the hot springs by King Bladud; the Baths falling into disrepair when the Romans left; and the renovation in Victorian times. Content was delivered to users in the Roman Baths via high speed network connection provided by Cambridge Communication Systems Limited, 60GHz mmWave Solution.

The £5m 5G Smart Tourism project is led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and funded by the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) It brings together a total of 19 partners and will connect leading West of England tourist destinations such as The Roman Baths, M-Shed and We The Curious to new 5G networks developed  by the The University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab.

The Smart Internet Lab has contributed extensively with design and deployment of 5G networks by leading the technical coordination of this project.

The director of the Smart Internet Lab, Professor Dimitra Simeonidou said: “5G will transform our future digital society and economy and will impact key sectors including transport, health, education, manufacturing and in this occasion, tourism. The University’s Smart Internet Lab has pioneered research on 5G technologies, delivering international and national impact. We are proud to support our region to lo lead on 5G deployment in the UK.”

West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “I am proud our region is playing such a pivotal role in both the development of 5G technology and the exciting first trials of these exciting new wireless services. We are ambitious to help support a commercial roll out of 5G infrastructure across our region and we see 5G as having a role in helping us address mobility across the region and in helping with digital inclusion.

“We are well placed to become a smart region – we are already recognised as a centre of excellence, as home to the largest cluster of digital expertise outside London. We are leading the way in technology and our businesses and universities are at the forefront of innovation in next-generation networks, including 5G, such as the University of Bristol Smart Internet Lab where our 5G testbed is hosted.”

5G Smart Tourism project partners, including the BBC, are helping to test the 5G capabilities in Bath by hosting the pilot events at the Roman Baths.

Cllr Tim Warren, Deputy Mayor of WECA and Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase our wonderful tourism offer – which plays a huge role in the West of England’s thriving economy – and look at ways in which we can enhance the visitor experience. We’ve got an impressive team of experts, from the creative and tech sectors, which has developed a really imaginative and immersive experience for mobile users, so it’s brilliant that we can trial this with people in Bath.”

The project plans to hold further trials through to March 2019 at various locations. Although 5G technology is not yet available to the public, and there are currently no plans for the Roman Baths to offer VR experiences to the public, the trials will demonstrate how 5G can enable new visitor experiences.

As well as supporting the visitor economy, super-fast and ultra-reliable 5G is expected to offer an increased level of connectivity and new opportunities for businesses, including better remote working, and is likely to bring significant business growth opportunities for the region’s tech sector.

5G will also support communications between emerging technology which will have a huge impact on people’s lives, allowing the public sector to test new ways of delivering services, and encouraging businesses of all sizes to explore new commercial opportunities.

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